Workplace lighting: why the human-centric approach is the way forwards

Workplace lighting: why the human-centric approach is the way forwards

Many studies have confirmed that when humans feel comfortable in an environment, they tend to be more productive. This supports a more human-centric approach to lighting in workplace settings.

Future light sources will have to deliver more than energy efficiency alone. They will need to assist those who live and work under their illumination, and grant them a general sense of well-being. This will lead to their productivity rising.

In this article, Sparks will examine the issues in many modern workplaces and see what can be done to solve them.

The current failings in workplaces to provide human-centric lighting

Although the LED revolution has reached many workplaces, some offices still retain incandescent bulbs as their main means of lighting. Incandescent lighting is a very old technology and was built without any thought to the human ‘circadian rhythm’.

If you are looking for the ideal lighting scheme to increase worker productivity, then you will want light initiatives such as circadian tuning, tunable warm lighting, warm dimming and ‘spectral dimming’ (dimming on the spectrum power distribution of light).

LED luminaires also achieve excellent levels of luminous efficacy, which is obviously useful in helping workers view what is around them. They come in LED battens which come in convenient lengths for workplaces, and includes accessories that allow them to turn at right angles.

A study conducted in 2016 by Pacific Northwest National Libraries concluded that people generally prefer lighting that has a greater saturation in red colour. This means a lamp that provides a colour rendering of as close to 100 as possible.

The researchers agreed that the CRI 80 rated light that is generally found in workplaces clashes with average people’s preferences. This spectrum results in more natural skin tones, warmer wood tones and the increased vibrancy of objects – it is easy to see why it is a favourite among workers!

The benefits of human-centric lighting: well-being leads to productiveness

Alas, businesses still have not gotten the message on the importance of lighting. An infographic provided by Lux, shows that for every £1 a business spends: 90 pence goes to the cost of staff, 9 pence on building costs and 1 pence on energy costs.

At first glance, you may think that sounds right: LED lighting is efficient enough to cut costs significantly. And surely it is best that businesses invest the most money spent internally (90%) on their staff, as maintaining staff is so important?

However, when you pry into how and why so much money is being spent on employees, the issues with low-funded lighting become apparent.

`Maintaining staff’ largely comes as a result of high staff turnover, time lost due to absenteeism, and the financial hit that comes with poor employee morale.

The old-school approach would say that ‘working is not meant to be fun’. However, a newer school of thinking, adopted most notably by companies such as Google, is that working should be fun – because it improves productivity and results in an increased income.

For example, Google instituted a ‘20% free time’ initiative, where employees spend a fifth of their time working on their own individual projects. This initiative resulted in two hugely successful projects: Gmail and Google Suggest (their version of auto-complete).

So human-centric lighting could result in a working environment where pioneering new ideas are made. In this case, if you are a business owner or employee – think about how you consider implementing an improved lighting scheme for your workplace.

Suggestions for human-centric lighting improvements

Suggestions for human-centric lighting improvements - see the Blanco Square Adjustable Downlight in White Plaster IP20 using GU10 max. 50W Dimmable

Electronic flicker is a serious concern with LED lighting – it has even been linked to epileptic seizures! Therefore, it’s important to ensure that good quality equipment is used. The lighting design of the LEDs must be constructed in a way that they do not cause visual disturbances, such as glare and reflections.

Glare and ‘hot spots’ of lighting are known to increase levels of headaches and result in higher levels of absenteeism in workplaces.

We need a lighting solution that ensures light patterns within our workplaces imitate the natural cycle of light and dark. Illumination levels and light colour are used dynamically throughout the working day as a way of steadying our own internal body clocks.

Lights with dimmable functionality are a great way to start improving lighting quality in the workplace.

The Blanco Square recessed downlight is not only dimmable but has a rotational adjustment angle of 360 degrees. This means you can focus the lights beam where it an employee most requires it.

Human-centric lighting doesn’t arrive in an ‘all in one’ package. It’s a bespoke system that you must design to suit your specific workplace. And if you implement human-centric lighting successfully, you are bound to see the benefits – in both mood and productivity!